|Sutler tents were sources of much of the Civil War beer drinking. These independent vendors followed both |
armies on the trail in famed Sutler's wagons. Beer would flow as long as the soldiers had cash.
“...“total abstinence from intoxicating liquors…would be worth fifty thousand men to the armies of the United States.”
--General George McClellan.
Gregg Smith writing in Realbeer.com penned “Beer in the Civil War” pointing out diversions from battle were found in playing cards, baseball and drinking beer. “Not surprisingly drinking was readily seen in units made up of ethnic groups tied to ethnic groups strongly tied to the beverage,” said writer Gregg .
Beer was obtained via sutler’s wagon’s (private citizen entrepreneurs who followed the troops selling what the soldiers wanted. Call sutler wagon’s PX’s on wheels.
Smith points out beer was often taken as prisoners of war from looted Confederate shops, taverns and private residences.
Of course, foraging for beer was not officially sanctioned.
Another official source of beer were the military hospitals,” said Smith, “One of the best known was Chimborazo Hospital, located in Richmond. It not only boasted a large bakery, but it also helped recuperation of the wounded by means of its 400 keg capacity brewery.”
And, if a soldier was stationed in one place long enough, they would find ways to collect brewing equipment and produce camp brews with names `Oh be Joyful', `How come you so', `Bust Head', and `Oil of Gladness'.
Will we soon see some enterprising craft beer brewer produce kegs of “Oil of Gladness?
Gregg Smith summed it up by saying that the Civil war was fought by the average American beer drinker of the day. Sad but true.
For a full reading of Gregg Smith’s “Beer in the Civil War” go to:
Another writer on beer drinking is Thomas P. Lowry’s book “Irish and German Whiskey and Beer: Drinking in the Civil War.” Published by CreateSpace, 2011. The author researched more than 75,000 Union Court Martials mostly involving being drunk on duty and pointed out some interesting data. The book goes from being light-hearted to dogmatic in its research.